Ella Minnow Pea Musical Sings in NYC Lab, With Rebecca Luker, Lilli Cooper, Donna Lynne Champlin, Heidi Blickenstaff
By Kenneth Jones
Ella Minnow Pea, a new musical fantasy about disintegrating language on an island, by Larson Award-winning writers Scott Burkell and Paul Loesel, gets private performances in Manhattan Oct. 25-26 following rehearsals in a developmental lab. The cast features Lilli Cooper, Rebecca Luker, Heidi Blickenstaff, Steven Skybell, Nehal Joshi and Donna Lynne Champlin, among others.
The work is produced by Breaking Bread Theatre, under the leadership of co-artistic directors Joe Calarco and Jen Waldman, with Third Coast Creative.
Directed by Joe Calarco (Shakespeare's R&J), the show is based on the 2001 novel by Mark Dunn. Dominick Amendum (Wicked) is music director and Matthew Doebler (Wicked) is associate music director.
According to the producers, "In this compelling and smart new musical, the island of Nollop is thrown into chaos when letters start tumbling from a revered saying emblazoned in the town square. Taking it as a sign, the local government forbids the use of each letter as it falls. As infractions are met with harsher and harsher punishments, one brave woman leads the fight to save the English language from shrinking into prehistoric grunts."
The lab cast features Lilli Cooper (Spring Awakening) as Ella, three-time Tony nominee Rebecca Luker (Mary Poppins), Steven Skybell (Wicked), Donna Lynne Champlin (NYSF's As You Like It), Tommy McDowell (American Idiot national tour), Sherry Boone (Lost in the Stars), Heidi Blickenstaff ([title of show]), Nehal Joshi (Les Miserables revival), Michael Di Liberto (Annie national tour), Aaron Serotsky (The Blue Flower), Joseph Medeiros (Guys and Dolls), Mariand Torres (Wicked), Glory Curda and Wolfgang Scheitinger.
Ella Minnow Pea has book and lyrics by Burkell and music by Loesel. Their musical The Extraordinary Ordinary received a Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation Grant, an ASCAP workshop, a CAP21 workshop, and productions at the Philly Fringe Festival, Farmers Alley Theatre, and Off-Broadway's Clurman Theatre. They also penned the musical revues Love Songs and Other Crap (MAC Award nomination) and Sorta Love Songs (Birdland).
They have received the Burton Lane Awards. "(Sorta) Love Songs," their debut CD, is on the Sh-K-Boom Records label. Visit scottandpaul.com.
Breaking Bread Theatre was founded by Joe Calarco, Jen Waldman, Wendy Dann and Steve Pacek.
Calarco has directed project for Playwrights Horizons, Primary Stages, Second Stage, Transport Group, Lincoln Center Theater, Signature Theatre in Arlington, The Old Globe, Barrington Stage Company the O'Neill Music Theater Conference, Philadelphia Theatre Company and other organizations. As a writer his published works include Walter Cronkite Is Dead, In the Absence of Spring and Shakespeare's R&J. He is the recipient of the Lucille Lortel Award, two Barrymore Awards, and four Helen Hayes Awards.
Third Coast Creative is a Houston-based production company "established to pursue uniquely talented stage and film artists and support them in creating and producing new works." The company, led by founders Deborah and Monte Stavis, "seeks out talented writers, musicians, performers and directors across the country and provides them with the opportunity to showcase their work." In fall 2010, Third Coast Creative, in association with Dreamlight Theatre Company, presented a developmental production of Burkell and Loesel's The Extraordinary Ordinary at New York's Clurman Theatre.
Breaking Bread Theatre "is dedicated to nurturing new works for the theatre. Developmental workshops, world premiere productions of plays and musicals, and mentoring programs for emerging writers are the cornerstones of their mission."
For more information, visit breakingbreadtheatre.com.
Read an earlier Playbill.com story about a developmental staging of the show in the University of Michigan's prestigious musical theatre program.
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